Celebrating its 13th summer, the Wildlife Leadership Academy provided an unmatched opportunity during a series of summer field schools for Pennsylvania teens.
The 100 new participants, ranging in age from 14-to 17-years old and demonstrating leadership skills, were selected from a competitive pool of applications.
Among these students, Natalie Brown of Birdsboro applied and was chosen to take part in this extraordinary statewide program this past summer.
The Academy is an exceptional program offering students a comprehensive study of specific wildlife species, including classroom and field-based, hands-on education. Led by experts, including biologists and educators from across the state and beyond, the program also engages participants in team work, friendly competition, and an awareness of their natural world.
Carter S., a graduate of the PA Bucktails field school, commented “The staff and fellow students are what were so special about my experience at the Academy. Experts in the field from around the state shared their knowledge, experience, and passion with us all. The Academy provided unique, hands on experiences where we were able to study the white tailed deer in its natural habitat and were able to see firsthand what we were learning. We not only learned a lot about the Bucktails, but also a lot about life.”
Academy students return to their community sharing what they have learned with their school, conservation organizations, local parks and more. They also keep a record of their conservation outreach efforts. Top outreach achievements qualify students for educational field trips, opportunities to return to field school tuition-free as mentors, and for college scholarships. Through field school and outreach projects, students learn and implement valuable life skills, such as leadership, communication, and responsibility.
Nathan G. shared more about his experience working on outreach projects, “I used to think about conservation as being limited to recycling programs. Through the Brookies program I learned that conservation takes many forms. Since Brookies I have had the opportunity to participate in community outreach projects such as helping to construct stream bank emplacements. This project has a direct link to conservation because it prevents the stream banks from moving, which allows the stream to support wildlife.”
Celebrating its 12th class of Conservation Ambassadors in 2018, the Academy has enrolled 569 youth from 62 counties across the state. These Conservation Ambassadors have conducted 5,279 outreach projects, engaging in over 20,000 hours engaging in these projects and with the public and reaching an audience of over 91,000 people across the state.
Academy Director Michele Kittell said the participants are “the next generation to speak for wildlife conservation."
"We hope the leadership of Academy youth in their home communities will inspire others to care more and therefore act more on behalf of the environment,” she said.
The Wildlife Leadership Academy, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is a cooperative initiative involving state agencies and conservation organizations.
Expert instructors at the field school include representatives from Clinton County Conservation District, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, PA Department of Environmental Protection, Kutztown University, National Wild Turkey Federation, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Quality Deer Management Association, Ruffed Grouse Society, Trout Unlimited, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and more.